Let Them Know You’re Alive: Keep Your Writer Website Up to Date

I’ve been looking through our users’ writer websites in order to get a feel for how they use their online writing portfolios. It’s always nice to stumble upon a use case that hadn’t occurred to me before. Just today, I spotted this on on Stephen Travis Febick’s homepage:

Stephen Travis FebickThis site is to showcase my writing, however recently it has turned into something slightly more; both a useful tool in organizing the number of tasks i’m working on, as well as a handy way to keep readers updated on what’s coming next.

I recently wrote about how your writer website is more than just an online portfolio; it’s also a full-fledged marketing website and, as Stephen says, an organisational tool for cataloguing your best work. But as Stephen also points out, it’s a way to keep people up to date with what’s new (the blog feature is particularly handy for this).

Why share what’s new? Because it tells people you’re alive, you’re for hire and you’re a creative machine! It also lets you promote your work, announce events, share your thoughts and get feedback. Think about it from a reader’s perspective (especially if that reader is a potential client, editor or employer): if they go to your website and the most recent writing sample is from 2005, they might think you’ve moved on from writing or aren’t serious about your work.

Here’s a few ways to keep your writer website loaded with fresh new content:

  • Use the blog to share weekly updates about you and/or your niche
  • Make sure the Writing Samples section of your website is up to date with the latest samples and clips
  • Refresh the homepage copy on a regular basis to make sure it reflects the current state of play and the latest writing samples you’ve posted to your portfolio (Writer’s Residence does this automatically)

Can you think of any other ways to keep your website fresh and lively? Or other uses for your writing portfolio that I hadn’t thought of? Let me know in the comments!

How to use your online writing portfolio with social media

I’m very excited to be sharing with you our first ever guest post! Today, freelance copywriter Bianca Marieta Budau explains how writers can use social media in conjunction with their writing portfolios to market their work and, as she puts it, “turn your online portfolio into an internet celebrity”.

You’ve created an online writing portfolio, now how do you get it “out there” so it shines in the spotlight?

As online writers, this is a question that haunts us (or at least it should). We know we’re good, but DO THEY?

Making your online writing portfolio famous is NOT a fairytale. But first you need to link up your writing portfolio with your social media accounts, and then go where your clients are. Let me explain…

Go where your clients are.

If you ask any marketing “guru” about how to promote your business, they will all tell you this:

You have to be where your clients are.

This is true whether you are a bricks and mortar company or the best online writer out there. Be where your clients are. And it just so happens that social media is a goldmine of potential clients.

This is why an online portfolio for writers is perhaps one of THE best tools. The trick is getting those potential clients to find you. Search isn’t the answer. While your online portfolio will be indexed by Google, it will not occupy a great position in search engines at first. And with the ongoing changes that Google is implementing into its algorithms you need to take your product (i.e. you) and put it in the face of your prospects.

You need to promote it.


The social media “trend” is no longer a fad; it’s a fundamental (and fundamentally wonderful) part of how the internet works. Everybody is using it –  businesses, business owners, ordinary people, kids, adults, seniors, clients, corporates, singers, actors, cooks. You’re probably using it, too. But are you using it to the best effect for your writing career?

This is where your online writing portfolio comes in. Here’s how to link up your online portfolio with the most popular social media accounts so you can start using these channels more effectively for marketing your work.

On Facebook

There are a couple of places in Facebook where you can include a link to your online portfolio:

1. In the “About Me” section. Add a link right before you start describing yourself; it is an indicator for people who visit your page to also click on that link and find out more about you and your work.

2. Add the link in the Biography or Description sections. Depending on what type of Facebook Page you create for your business (Business Person, Company, etc) you will be given different options. As you can see in the image underneath, I only included a link to my website once, but you can do it as often as you like.

On Pinterest

You can add a link to your portfolio if you have a Pinterest Business Page. It looks something like this…

… and you can create it in a few simple steps, by following these instructions.

Once you created your business profile you can add your writing portfolio as your website.

On Google Plus

Google+ is growing to be one of the most popular social platforms out there, and many people are using it for business.

A great thing about Google+ is that you can add your portfolio to the Contributor section on your profile. You can then link your Google Plus profile to your website and set up Google Authorship. (Learn more about Google Authorship here.)

Here is where you can add your online portfolio link to your G+ profile:

Of course, you can always include your link in the “Introduction” section as well, but on Google Plus the most relevant section for this link is “Contributor To” because once you set up Google Authorship, here is how your work will appear on search engine results:

LinkedIn – Include your portfolio in the Experience section

LinkedIn was created especially for business networking, so you shouldn’t ignore it. You can add a link to your online writing in the Experience section or in the Summary area.

On Twitter

On Twitter, this is simple: add a link to your writing portfolio to the website area of your Twitter profile. This is the first thing people click on when they want to know more about who they’re following.

Here is where your website will be shown on your profile:

Now is your turn…

Are you already using social media platforms to promote your portfolio? What platforms are you using and how often do you post? Did you notice any improvements as far as traffic is concerned?

Let me know if you liked this article and if you’d like more information on how to use social media to your advantage.

We’ll see you in the next post, but until then you can always find me in the Comments section. 🙂

About Bianca Marieta:

Bianca Marieta Budau is a freelance writer and online journalist interested in Online Writing, Social Media, Internet Marketing, SEO and Mobile Marketing. Marieta has been working as a freelance copywriter since 2009 and is currently collaborating with several companies worldwide (such as Super Savvy Business Australia and Veribo Romania). You can follow Marieta on her website at http://www.biancamarieta.com.

More than just a writing portfolio

Most of us started our writing portfolios because we wanted to use them as a tool for finding writing gigs. After all, you need a platform for sharing your work if you want to show editors and clients what you can do. But a writing portfolio isn’t just something you throw away once you get the job.

1. Writing portfolio = Website

We talk all the time about “writing portfolios” but what we really mean is “websites for writers”. The word portfolio is defined as a “set of pieces of creative works.” But professional writers should go for something more comprehensive: alongside your “creative works” is your biography, resume, blog, home page, testimonials, contact information… the list goes on. Your writing portfolio website is a comprehensive view of who you are and what you do. This in turn helps you…

2. Define yourself as a professional, not a wannabe

We were recently featured on journalism.co.uk in an article about making the most of portfolio platforms. I’ll tell you what I told them:

“For writers, especially new ones, you’re trying as hard as you can to portray yourself as a professional and one of those things is having a website that is tailored for you and doesn’t look like everybody else’s.”

Professionals in any industry, be it a writer, graphic designer or plumber, have a proper website with their own domain name. That website should encompass your portfolio, plus deliver those little extras that tell the world that you’re a pro who takes their job seriously.

2. An ongoing catalogue of your clips and writing samples

One of the things I’ve appreciated most about my own portfolio is that it’s helped me keep a record of my best writing and published works over the years. It’s an archive of my publications and also a pretty solid motivational tool – I love looking back at what I’ve done and seeing how far I’ve come. It’s a little extra push to keep me going for the next gig, and the next writing sample to add to my portfolio.

How I got my first writing gig

The story of how I got my first writing gig – an article in The Daily Telegraph – is integral to the founding of Writer’s Residence. Today, I’m sharing this story with you in hopes that it will be useful to those just starting a writing career.

Here’s a overview, with time estimates:

  1. I quit my day job (instantaneous)
  2. I set up a website that declared myself a writer (about a week)
  3. I thought about things I wanted to write about and researched publications that might go for it (eternal)
  4. I pitched editors article ideas until one such idea was commissioned (a month or two)

Here’s the longer version…

First, the background

I studied math and was a statistician at a big bank in London before taking the plunge into freelance writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and have always written as a hobby (when I was a kid, I used to write imaginary travel articles about places I wanted to visit, and then staple the pages together into a “magazine” – my first foray into self publication!). I was also editor of my high school newspaper and worked at the Daily Illini student newspaper at the University of Illinois. But all of this writing stuff sat next to my interest in math and science, which seemed like a far more lucrative career prospect anyway.

So a career in math and science I had, but it didn’t make me happy (I partially blame the business suit I was required to wear at the bank). I came to realise that the aspect of my work that I enjoyed the most was the writing: be it writing business reports, academic articles or educational material. I’ve always liked the technical side of things, but what I really LOVE is putting that technical stuff into words that mere mortals can understand.

In 2008 I quit the bank and decided to devote myself to becoming a freelance writer. I decided to give myself 3 months to make a nudge into the business. I spent that time largely reading various books on “how to become a freelance writer” and pitching article ideas to editors. Two things were critical to my success:

  1. Being confident that YES I AM a writer and
  2. Capitalising on my strengths to get the gig

My writing website: the marketing machine!

The funny thing about being a writer is that it’s pretty easy to become one. It’s really just a matter of declaring yourself a writer, being confident in that declaration and showing off a few pieces that prove this declaration is true. To make this declaration “digitally”, I created a website, something that contained some writing samples and told the world that I’m a professional writer and I take my career seriously.

I had to get creative about what to put in my writing portfolio as I hadn’t really been published anywhere yet, and have written about this previously here: Writing samples: What if I haven’t been published?

Get over the dream to get closer to the dream

In my dream world, I would like to get paid to write about food, health and fitness (and I’ve made a lot of headway into this arena already, but that’s another story). At the start, try as I might to pitch to food and fitness publications, I found it super challenging to make any headway because I had no clips whatsoever. I soon realised that I needed to capitalise on my strengths: I have a math and science background and am capable of writing technical stuff in a non-technical way. So I decided to put the food stuff aside for a moment and seek out a science-angle for my first paid commission.

Give them something they can’t get anywhere else

I like to keep an eye on Science Daily, and stumbled across a press release about a research study into endorphins and runners high. This appealed to my interest in health and fitness, but also had a strong science angle that I felt I could explore with authority. It was also timely as the London Marathon was coming up.

I decided to contact the lead researcher cited in the article and ask if he’d submit to an interview. He did (most people are very happy to give an interview, especially scientists who are just thrilled to bits when someone is interested in their work). I then used that interview as grounds for a pitch to a few national papers. In the end, The Daily Telegraph bit, but it took a little work to seal the deal.

First, I had to follow up. A few times. When I mentioned that the work was starting to get press in other papers, I got a response. Guess what the editor asked:

“Have you any examples of what you have written before I could look at?”

So I sent a link to my website and this is what I got back:

“Get me 500 words by Fri first thing.”


Back to dreaming

After that, getting new commissions got easier, and they get easier all the time now that I have a good collection of writing samples under my belt. It’s not all rock star writing – in fact, a good bulk of my work is in copywriting and content writing for small businesses. But it IS rock star writing because I’m doing it as a sole trader and have total control over who I work with and the jobs I choose to do. Now, over five years later I’m still a freelance writer. I’m also a freelance social media consultant, the owner and founder of Writer’s Residence and an Associate Lecturer at the Open University. I do it using many of the same tactics I used to get that first gig: be creative, be persistent and, perhaps most critically, present yourself as a professional who’s confident in what they do and takes their work seriously.

Suffice to say, I’ve never looked back at the bank… or its ridiculous outfits.

I would love to hear more writers tell their story about how they got their first gig. If you’d like to tell your story and have it featured on our blog, please get in touch!

Copywriters: What are your biggest career challenges?

I’ve been talking to our customers a lot lately, trying to learn more about their specific use cases – what type of writer are they? And how do they use their online writing portfolios?

Something that’s struck me is just how many COPYWRITERS are using Writer’s Residence because it’s a handy way for them to distribute their writing portfolios to potential clients and job opportunities.

Given that Writer’s Residence is all about helping writers market themselves, I’d like to do more for the copywriters among us, be that by improving the site to better serve the needs of copywriters, or by writing useful articles about copywriting here on the blog.

To that end, I’d like to hear from the copywriters out there: what are your biggest career challenges? What boggles you when it comes to marketing your work? How are you using your websites in your career, and do you wonder if you could be using it more productively? Are there things you wish you could do to market yourself that you’re not doing because you don’t know how?

Let me know… and non-copywriting writers should feel free to chime in, too. Most of these questions apply to us all!

5 Must-Haves For Your Online Writing Portfolio

Writer's Residence WebsiteIf you’ve just create an online writing portfolio website to market yourself and your work, then you’re probably eager to get it up to snuff as quickly as possible so you can start using it to land some gigs. To that end, I put together this list of bare minimums to get done before you start sending your portfolio to editors, clients and potential employers. After all, it’s a competitive world out there, and our goal is to help you stand out from the crowd with a stellar portfolio that really shows off your work.

Make the homepage shine.

This is the first page people see when they visit your website – use it to make a good impression and grab their attention. Summarise what you do in a paragraph – the shorter and snappier, the better. Focus on your ultimate selling points and why you’re the best at what you do. And don’t forget to upload an image – a great headshot adds personality to your page (for our customers, you can do this easily when you edit your homepage on Writer’s Residence).

Add your best writing samples.

This best way to show off what you can do is to upload a few writing samples, be they magazine articles, book excerpts, copywriting examples or newsletters. Make sure the sample is easy to access – ideally, text on a page or a link to the original article online. But you can also share documents if that makes more sense (in which case, use a thumbnail to provide a snapshot of the document, see my London Calling article for an example). In Writer’s Residence, you can add a writing sample in any type of format: text, PDF, jpeg, Word doc…you can even upload video and audio clips. Feeling at a loss for writing samples? Then here are a few ideas for new writers on using unpublished writing clips as samples.

Make it easy for people to contact you.

Make sure you have a contact page and fill it in with all of the relevant details: name, email address, phone number, social media links… different people prefer different modes of content, so give them as many options as you can to encourage them to get in touch. Also, call out your contact details on other pages in your website. For example, on the homepage, a simple sentence like “Contact me if you’d like me to write some amazing copy for you” with a link to your contact page can be a powerful call to action. That’s what this is all about, after all: getting people to see your stuff and think, “yes please, I’d like some of that.” Don’t make them have to hunt and dig for your contact details.

Choose a fantastic theme.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a web design agency create super custom website for you, but you do to need an online writing portfolio that looks nice. Our advice: work with a platform with pre-built themes that makes it difficult to create an ugly website. Writer’s Residence comes with 16 beautiful pre-designed themes that let you personalise your website with the click of a button. You can also create a custom theme with your own header and colours to truly personalise your website.

Think Beyond the Portfolio.

Get your writing portfolio out there. Link to it in your email signature. Add it to your social media profiles. Put it on your business card. Use the blog feature to keep your website fresh and give people a reason to keep coming back. (A regularly updated website also improves your ranking in search engines.)

A great website is your opportunity to tell the world that you’re a professional writer who takes their work seriously. So make sure your writing portfolio fits the part and not only represents you, but also stands out against the competition.

SEO and your writing website

One of our users recently wrote in with a question about SEO, which basically boiled down to this: How does Google find my website? Moreover, how does Google find my website if the website is created by a third party (like Writer’s Residence) and I don’t have control over the website’s metadata?

SEO is something that every writer should think about (though few writers do) because it’s an important step in optimising your website for marketing purposes. The bottom line is: You want people to find you. Search engines are how people find things. Thus, you want people to find you when they search for (1) your name or (2) keywords associated with the things you write about.

Below I’ve explained (1) how we address this issue, and (2) what writers can do themselves to improve their SEO. I’ve also included links to relevant sections of SEOMoz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a really useful primer that’s miraculously not boring as sin.

What we do in the back-end

Here’s what we do to help search engines find our users’ webpages:

  • We use ‘title’ tags (the stuff you see in the title bar of your web browser) based on the name you supply on your account
  • We use ‘h1’ tags to describe the main heading of your web page, again based on your name, and one of the first things Google looks at when deciding on a website’s page rank in search results.
  • When you create your website, we “tell” Google you exist so that it indexes your web page from the get-go and makes you immediately findable in search results.

What writers can do to improve their SEO

The most important thing for searchability is CONTENT, and this is something you [should] have complete control over, no matter who creates your website. To that end, there’s loads you can do, but here are a few ways to get started that are most important and easiest to implement:

  • Invest in your own domain name, and pick a domain name that relates to the keyword you want people to find you on (usually your own name, e.g. monicashaw.com).
  • Decide which keywords are most important to your business and use them throughout the content of your website.
  • Link to external and internal pages within your content.
  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) to create external links to your content
  • Use Google Analytics to track your stats; adjust and adapt your keywords as you learn how and why people find your website. (And yes, Writer’s Residence does have a facility for integrating Google analytics from the Settings page)

Finally, you might find this SEO checklist handy: The Social Media Marketer’s SEO Checklist.

How to use your writing portfolio to apply to different types of writing jobs

I just had an email from one of our users with a very good question:

Do you have any advice or blog posts about using a writing portfolio to apply to multiple types of writing jobs?
How should my portfolio reflect this, especially when it comes to the Writing Samples and Home sections?

I know this has been a burning question for me for the last four years since I went freelance, and speaks to a challenge that many of us face, especially when we’re just starting out in the trade.

Almost every pro in the business will tell you that writers should have a “niche”. It’s good advice, but even so, niche writers still write for numerous types of media. For me, my niche is food. Sure, I write food articles for magazines and blogs, but I also do lots of writing work WITH food brands, like copywriting, web development and various other forms of consulting. How can I use one writing portfolio to reflect my vast array of experience, and then use that to apply for specific types of writing jobs?

In the past few years I’ve sent my writing portfolio to a LOT of prospective clients and editors. Some of them even gave me jobs. And enough of them gave me jobs that I actually make a living at it. So here are my top tips to our user – and any writer out there applying to different types of writing jobs – based on my experience. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on the topic, too, so feel free to add your advice in the comments!

It actually begins with your cover letter.

Whenever you apply for a job, or pitch an editor or new client, you always start with a cover letter, even if it’s just an email expressing interest. This is where you can call out your specific experiences that make you right for the gig, and also where you can point editors to specific parts of your online writing portfolio that contains information relevant to the job. My approach is to write a paragraph or two explaining myself and why I’m writing, then call out some specific samples of which I’m particularly proud. Here’s a typical closing paragraph from a cover letter which I sent to the editor of a food magazine, with a sign-off that has a link to my full writing portfolio in the signature:

I’m a freelance writer with many years experience writing about food and travel, with credits including food magazine, the Daily Telegraph. You can find a collection of recent writings on food and travel in my writing portfolio, including my latest piece from Chef Magazine, at the links below:


Warmest regards,


Use your home page.

Although you’ll be pointing people in your cover letter to specific parts of your portfolio, you still want to make sure you represent yourself well on the main landing page of your website (having done a bit of hiring myself, I always look at an applicant’s website to see how they present themself overall).  Use the homepage place to summarise your range of experience. Don’t get too verbose – this is meant to be a summary. Freelance writer Carol Tice has done a good job of this on her website. You can see how I’ve tackled this on my own website at monicashaw.com.

Categorize your writing samples.

If you’re pitching an article idea on running for beginners to the editor of Women’s Health magazine, then it probably doesn’t make sense to send them a sample of your scholarly Master’s Thesis on liver glutathione homestasis (or the like). Use categories with your writing samples so that you can link specifically to the samples that are relevant. For example, I occasional write e-learning material for brands wanting to train their staff online, so I have a category for e-learning with related samples that I can use in any cover letters that I send for e-learning jobs.

Bonus feel-good tip:

This is a fast-paced world. People get that. And no one is going to raise an eyebrow if you take on different types of jobs. In fact, it’s expected. And it’s a good thing. It means you’re adaptable. Nothing’s wrong with diversifying your experience – it’s good business. Lots of people understand that, and those are the sort of people you want to work with, anyway! So don’t worry if your writing portfolio conveys a wide variety of experiences. Just make sure you point people to the right place in your portfolio when applying for jobs.

How to Make Your Website Theme Rock

themesOne of our missions with Writer’s Residence is to provide writers with a website that looks good by default, so you can spend less time “designing” and more time writing. As such, we offer 16 pre-designed website themes (including a few recent additions from the fantastic designers at Wired Canvas), all of which are designed specifically with writers in mind.

But we also give writers the option to create a custom theme, with their own header and color scheme. To that end, I wanted to offer some advice for writers who want to use a custom theme to help them make it look as good as possible. Of course, these rules not only apply to Writer’s Residence, but to anyone who’s got a website that they’ve designed themselves.

Choosing a header image

This is the image that appears at the top of your page. In Writer’s Residence, you can use any size image you’d like (we resize it automatically to make it look good on the page) but a good rule of them is to use a header image that’s a long, wide rectangle. A header that’s too tall will push everything below it off the screen, but all that stuff below the header is important, and you want people to see it when they first access the page.

Good header:


Bad header:


How to pick your website’s colour scheme

Writer's Residence Custom ThemeIf you’ve ever gone to a website that’s difficult to read because of the text and background colous, then you know how important colors are to a website. Why should anyone – particularly those all-important editors, clients and customers – stick around if they can’t read it?

In Writer’s Residence, you can customize your theme’s header, text, link, background and text background colours. A good general rule is that dark text on a light background is best. But you can also do even better by picking a colors that work well together and which suit your style and personality.

Here are a few of my favourite tools for picking color schemes:

  • Kuler – a community driven web app that lets your browse color palettes created by others. You can also create your own by using the color wheel, harmony rules, and color sliders.
  • Color Scheme Designer – a nice, simple interface that helps you create beautiful color schemes in seconds.
  • Pictaculous – upload an image and this app creates a color scheme based on that image. This could be particularly handy for those of you using custom header images.
  • COLOURlovers – this one’s a bit of fun and another community driven site where people create and share colors, palettes and patterns.

Color Scheme Designer

In the coming weeks we’ll put together some of our favourite website color schemes and palettes for you to use on your own website. In the meantime, has anyone else got some great tools or ideas to share for creating a rockin’ website theme? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

In praise of custom domain names

Custom Domain Name

The road to establishing yourself as a professional writer may seem long and ominous but one quick and easy thing you can do to speed things along is to get your own domain name. Why? Well, compare the following URLs:

  • http://monicashaw.blogspot.com
  • http://monicashaw.wordpress.com
  • http://monicashaw.com

Of those three, to which would you attach the most cred?

It’s all about professionalism, and professionals have their own custom domain name. It’s really that simple.

How do I choose a domain name registrar?

You need to register your domain name through a “domain name registrar”. But who to choose? There are probably thousands of places out there where you can register a domain name, all of which vary in terms of cost and customer support (the latter being quite important if you’re not very technically-minded).

I have had positive experience with both Gandi and Namecheap, who both happen to be included in Lifehacker’s list of Five Best Domain Registrars. If you can recommend others, we’d love to hear about the comments.

How do I choose a domain name?

Your name is a good place start (i.e. monicashaw.com). Go for something short, snappy and easy to spell, with no hyphens. Try to get a “.com” domain name if possible. If you’re name isn’t available, or you want to highlight your niche, pick a name that’s on topic (e.g. copyblogger.com, foodwriter.com).

How do I use my domain name on my website?

It all depends on how and where you host your website.

Writer’s Residence customers can setup their custom domain by logging into their account and clicking on “Settings”, then “Website addresses” and following the instructions on the page.

Folks using other web services should be able to find instructions with the service’s support documentation.

Do you have your own domain yet?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on setting up your own domain. How did you choose a domain name? Who did you register with? Any particular challenges that I haven’t mentioned here?